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RDX vs. CR-V: 5 Reasons to Splurge on the Acura and 5 More to Go Honda

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 12/1/2015 Zach Gale, Motor Trend Staff

2016 Acura RDX vs 2016 Honda CR V side profile© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Acura RDX vs 2016 Honda CR V side profile

It's time for a new crossover, and you're loyal to Honda and Acura. Would the 2016 Acura RDX or the 2016 Honda CR-V be a better fit? After spending months driving the Motor Trend long-term 2015 CR-V, I recently drove the refreshed 2016 RDX, a two-row crossover that's built on the same platform as the SUV of the Year-winning Honda ( read the review HERE ). They're not officially direct competitors—the RDX battles with premium options such as the Lexus NX, BMW X1, and Lincoln MKC—but in the real world, those who want a Honda or Acura may just find the CR-V and RDX as the finalists in a search for a new crossover. The two vehicles share a few features and a similarly useful interior, but there are plenty of differences, too.

If the idea of driving a car without a premium badge on the front grille doesn't instantly turn you off, here are five reasons to choose the CR-V. And if taking the step up to the Acura causes only a slight pause, we've got five ways to justify the RDX over the less expensive CR-V.

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Why do RDX? Power!

2016 Acura RDX engine 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Acura RDX engine 02

The 2016 Acura RDX boasts a 279-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Considering the 2015 Honda CR-V is powered by a 185-hp, 2.4-liter I-4, the difference is—of course—immediately noticeable. I appreciate the sound the engine makes at wide-open throttle, not to mention the Acura's Motor Trend-tested 6.2-second 0-60 time. For an all-wheel-drive luxury SUV starting in the mid- to high-$30,000 range, that's decently quick even before considering the 8.5-second time of our long-term all-wheel-drive CR-V. 

Although the European-spec CR-V offers paddle shifters, only the Acura makes them available in the U.S. Most buyers won't use them, but I find them useful for those occasions I want to use engine braking—they're easier than the CR-V's low gear on the shift stalk.

Why do RDX? Standard LEDs

2016 Acura RDX headlight 02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Acura RDX headlight 02

Every 2016 RDX comes standard with LED headlights, which can make a big difference in nighttime forward visibility. The feature (or HIDs) is an extra cost on many of the RDX's competitors and isn't available at all on the U.S.-spec CR-V, which offers projector-beam halogens on the top Touring trim. HID and LED headlights are the type of upgrade you might pass off as unnecessary until you've experienced them for yourself, after which point the luxury might cause you to second guess from behind the wheel whether halogen-equipped vehicles have their lights on at all. 

Why do RDX? For the power (seats)

2016 Acura RDX interior© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Acura RDX interior

If you often shuttle family and friends around town, the RDX's standard power front passenger seats will come in handy. A four-way seat is standard on the base model, but most RDXs will get the upgraded eight-way power seat. On the CR-V, the seat is passenger powered, though on both crossovers you'll find an easy-to-use lever in the cargo area to fold down the second-row seats in a 60/40 split. 

Also cool: The RDX's side-view mirrors tilt down when in reverse.

Why do RDX? For the knob and TPMS graphic

MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

Some of Honda's more recently introduced cars sacrifice a traditional volume knob to maximize screen size and allow for a volume slider. After months of driving the long-term CR-V, I don't personally miss having one thanks to the steering wheel controls, but it's a different story for the front passenger. The RDX makes turning up the volume simpler here with a knob placed high on the center stack. 

Also helpful is the tire-pressure-monitoring graphic in the instrument cluster display, which shows the psi of each tire.

Why go RDX? A fuel economy surprise

2016 Acura RDX front threequarter in motion© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Acura RDX front threequarter in motion

The real-world difference in fuel economy on a 279-hp Acura versus a 185-hp Honda might not be as severe as you think. The 2016 CR-V EPA ratings are down a little from 2015, with the AWD model at 25/31 mpg city/highway compared to the AWD 2016 Acura RDX's 19/28 mpg or the AWD 2015 CR-V's 26/33 mpg. The Real MPG numbers, however, tell a different story. Our AWD RDX tester hit 21.5/30.2 mpg in Real MPG compared to our long-term AWD 2015 CR-V's 23.0/28.8 mpg. We've got one word of caution about those Acura numbers, though: The more lead-footed drivers won't get close to the RDX's EPA or Real MPG fuel economy numbers, instead making the most of that V-6. 

Keep reading for five reasons to instead go for a Honda CR-V.

Why go CR-V? The most obvious reason of all

2016 Honda CR V front three quarter in motion 06© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda CR V front three quarter in motion 06

The Honda CR-V is thousands cheaper than the Acura RDX. Some buyers, though, can afford a $40,000 car but would still rather not spend that much on an instantly depreciating asset.* The popular CR-V is a good choice for cheaper consumers who are OK with a less premium and less powerful vehicle that's still well-rounded. 

*The CR-V and RDX both have respectable IntelliChoice five-year retained values of just over 50 percent.

Why go CR-V? Smooth driving

2016 Honda CR V rear three quarter in motion 06© Provided by MotorTrend 2016 Honda CR V rear three quarter in motion 06

Don't fear CVTs! If nearly all of your driving is on heavily trafficked highways and city streets instead of fun-to-drive winding roads, consider the everyday smoothness of CVTs. The more sensitive drivers will feel the RDX's six-speed automatic subtly changing gears, not something you'll feel with the four-cylinder CR-V's CVT. 

Why go CR-V? A reclining reason

2016-Honda-CR-V-interior-seats-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Honda-CR-V-interior-seats-02

Although the rear seats of both crossovers are easy to fold down, only the CR-V's seat backs can recline, potentially making trips for second-row passengers more comfortable if they remember the seat is flexible. Regardless, the Honda and Acura have highly usable interiors with soft front seat backs and a nearly flat floor for folks in the second row. 

Why go CR-V? Watch it

Press that button to activate the LaneWatch feature© Provided by MotorTrend Press that button to activate the LaneWatch feature

One of the features I'll miss the most on the long-term CR-V is the incredibly helpful Honda LaneWatch system. Using a camera mounted under the passenger side-view mirror, the car's central display shows what the backward-facing camera is seeing whenever you turn on the right turn signal. As with most crossovers these days, there are lots of blind spots in the Honda and Acura, but the LaneWatch system makes it a little easier to change lanes—and yes, you can turn off the technology.

Why go CR-V? Active safety tech

MotorTrend Image© Provided by MotorTrend MotorTrend Image

I wish the CR-V's active safety tech were offered on more trims than the Touring, but I still appreciate the technology. In the CR-V I've driven for months, as well as in the 2016 RDX, the more useful bits of active safety tech include a lane keeping assist system that can nudge you back into your lane if you veer out of it and a front collision warning system that can apply the brakes if an obstacle is detected. Both crossovers earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. In NHTSA testing, the 2016 RDX has a five-star overall safety rating (out of a possible five stars), and the 2015 CR-V is good for four stars; the 2016 CR-V hasn't yet been overall safety rated. 

So tell us, how important to you is a luxury badge and more power? Would you go with the Acura's higher status on the automotive food chain and its extra features or stick with the Honda and pocket the extra cash?

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